Search is dead. 3 patterns for next-gen Search UX

Three days ago, design pioneer Airbnb announced the redesign of its search as "the biggest change in a decade" according to its designer-CEO Brian Chesky.

It's time to tell your teams: search is dead. Time of death: Summer 2022.

And Search 2.0 is here to stay.

But it has been a decade in the making, dating back to the introduction of Google Instant in 2010, the autocomplete "smart search" of its search engine. Since then, search has evolved from being character-specific input queries to full-blown navigation and discovery engines.

Now, technical feasibility and UX arguments for robust search patterns are supported by:

  1. Out-of-the-box plugins like Algolia and Amazon's OpenSearch
  2. Improved DOM rendering with JS frameworks like React and Vue
  3. Lessons learned from modern search practices: Apple's Spotlight, Facebook's Graph Search, Google's Instant, etc.

There is no excuse for designing stale search experiences in 2022. Use these next-gen patterns moving forward.

Next-gen Search Patterns

Pattern #1: Search as Discovery

Pinterest Search Pattern

Answers the question "Where should I go?"

Best for surfacing content in content-rich products like productivity tools, social media platforms, and e-commerce.


  1. Recent search activity
  2. Recommendations based on personal activity
  3. Recommendations based on popular activity
  4. Recommendations based on new features

Pattern #2: Search as Advanced Filtering

Slack Search Pattern

Best for e-commerce shopping, searching through historical logs or completing tasks in data-dense productivity tools.


  1. Recent search activity
  2. All filterable top-level categories
  3. Any filterable contextual-level categories

Pattern #3: Search as a Toolbar

Superhuman Search Pattern

Answers the question "How do I do ________?"

Best for products that involve a high volume of actions like productivity tools.


  1. Keyboard shortcut indicators
  2. Recommended actions based on frequent activity
  3. All other available actions
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